Making A Short Film: 5 Awesome Tactics For New Filmmakers

Making a short film is a rite of passage for many new filmmakers.

If you have never made a short film, now is the time.

There are a gazillion film festivals offering short movie programs, and you can reach a global audience with websites like YouTube.

Plus, making a short film is a great way to learn filmmaking.


In the old days, making a short film meant a studio would project your work in theaters before the feature presentation.

But that trend ended.

Short films were replaced by trailers and advertisements.

There wasn’t much of a market for short films in the following decades. It was almost impossible to make money with a short film.

As a result, finding investors to back a short was super challenging.

5 Awesome Tactics For Filmmakers
5 Awesome Tactics For Filmmakers

How To Make A Short Film

While I can’t say that the economics of short movie-making has improved, film festivals and internet-based video platforms provide fantastic ways to see your work. But regardless, you’re a filmmaker.

You have short film ideas. And making a short film is a great training ground for getting your feature made, seen, and sold.

Many people in Hollywood bounce around for years pretending to do work when all they are doing is posing.

Many of these people call themselves producers, yet they have no screen credits and have failed to do anything! Don’t do that. If you haven’t yet made a short, I suggest getting started!

Don’t worry about lighting or special effects for your first few movies. Just learn how to utilize your limited resources and make something cool out of nothing.

Here is a quick video outlining my tips for creating a short film.

Tactic 1: Leverage Your Resources

Technology has come a long way. You can now buy a camera that produces cinematic results for a few hundred dollars.

And if you can’t afford a new camera, use any camera you can use. And yes, this includes camera phones.

If you cannot yet afford your equipment, find someone who already has the gear and makes friends.

I suggest you focus on a story you can tell in three minutes or less. While teaching a filmmaking course, I realized many first-time filmmakers created stories that focused on some guy staring into a mirror and talking or some girl shaving her head while reminiscing about apples and spiders.

These films sucked, but they were good practice.

Your initial movies will probably suck too. And even if you think it is excellent, watching it five years from now, you’ll think it sucks. So don’t worry about any of it. Permit yourself to suck. Practice your craft.

If you’re wondering what a sucky short film looks like, here is an example:

Tactic 2: Short Films Suck

Yeah. It is MY second short film, and I don’t know what I was thinking. But it was good practice. And despite the fact it was a stupid art piece based on a terrible short film idea that presented nothing new to the world, I learned a lot.

And it simply sucks.

I included this short film example to encourage you.

The odds are good that you can do better than this poo. I challenge you to get started and do something better! Prove it.

Just remember, the more you practice, the better you get. And if you’re making a short film but find yourself low on short movie ideas, the next best thing is to create a music video, which is essentially a short movie.

Tactic 3: Don’t Make Drama

Many years back, I was invited to Haig Manoogian Screenings, which showcases the best short films. These films represented the best of NYU film school and were presented by former NYU alumni Eli Roth.

Shot on film (not HD video). All of the movies looked expensive and awesome. But most were dramatic.

Many student filmmakers create serious and dramatic films. So, if you think you have something dramatic that you HAVE to share, by all means, make your movie!

Case in point: I thought Little Horses was the best film of the night.

Skillfully directed by Levi Abrino, this movie has a ton of heart.

Here is an excerpt:

Tactic 4: Tell Good Stories

While my review of Levi’s short film is slightly biased (I have been a fan of Levi’s work for years), the audience’s laughter was evidence that Levi’s movie offered a nice break from all the drama. Go, Levi!

Keep in mind that your short film will probably end up on YouTube. So if you can be funny and get Internet viewers to share your movie with other people, who will then share your film with other people, you will have achieved a great thing.

In addition to all the points mentioned thus far – Your audience is your business. Growing your audience is up to you. The process starts with making a short film, getting your movie online, and exposing your work to the world.

Tactic 5: Get Bored Fast

After making a few short films, you may find yourself getting bored. And this is a good sign because it shows you’re growing. When this happens, begin to develop more complex short film ideas and then write a well-crafted screenplay.

If you have not made a short movie, write one or two-page scripts and produce your story on a borrowed camcorder. Then, edit the footage on a friend’s computer. From there, you can upload it to YouTube, test audience reaction, Learn from it, then make another film!

Once you feel confident with short storytelling, move on to bigger and bigger projects. Keep pushing yourself. Keep refining and learning! The short movie marathon exercise described above will give you a fundamental understanding of shooting scenes for minimal cost and making them enjoyable.

Short Film Elements

An excellent short film tells a compelling story, leaving the audience wanting more. When you upload your work for the world to watch, audience feedback will reveal improvement areas.

Making an excellent short film will help you gain endurance, experience, and confidence to make movies more efficiently. And even though you’re working with non-professional equipment and talent, if you can learn to make an excellent short film with a small camera, you can make a good feature film with a big camera.

Or think of it like this… If you make one or two three-minute movies every weekend for six months, you will have the equivalent experience making a feature. And if you need some additional help, these short film ideas will help you.


Want to make a short film? Just grab a camera, which could even be your phone, and hit record. Making short films is the best way to learn. You don’t need lots of cash to do it. Skip the serious stuff at first and try to tell a cool story. Sure, your first tries might not be perfect, but that’s okay. It’s about getting better and having a blast doing it. So go for it, use what you’ve got, and show everyone what you’ve made. This could be the beginning of something big.

Frequent Short Film Questions

Here are answers to frequent questions we get about making short films.

How do I start making a short film?

Use what you have! Grab any camera you can, like your phone, and tell a short story. Try to keep it under three minutes. It’s all about getting creative with what’s around you.

Why should I make a short film?

It’s a great way to learn filmmaking. You get to try out your ideas, see them in action, and share your work with others. Plus, it can be fun and lead to bigger projects.

Can I make a short film without much money?

Absolutely! You don’t need a lot of cash. Start with your smartphone or borrow a camera. What’s more important is your story and how you tell it.

Do all short films have to be serious?

Not at all. In fact, making something funny or interesting can really stand out. People love sharing entertaining videos, so think about what makes you laugh or think.

How can I make my short film better?

Practice makes perfect. Your first few films might not be great, and that’s okay. Keep making more, learn from each one, and you’ll improve.

What if people don’t like my short film?

That’s part of learning. Not everyone will like everything you make, but that feedback can help you grow. Plus, the more you create, the better you’ll get.

How do I get people to watch my short film?

Share it online, like on YouTube. Tell friends and family about it. Entering it into film festivals is also a great way to get seen.

What’s the best way to develop ideas for a short film?

Look at your own life and what’s around you. Interesting stories can come from anywhere. Try to think of something that would be fun to watch.

How long should my short film be?

Keep it under three minutes, especially if you’re just starting out. Short and sweet can make a big impact.

What should I do if I get bored making short films?

That might mean you’re ready for something bigger. Challenge yourself with more complex stories or start planning a longer project. Keep pushing your limits!

Short Film Key Terms

Here are some key terms from “Making a Short Film: 5 Awesome Tactics for New Filmmakers.” Knowing these will help you get started and improve as a filmmaker.

  • Short Film: A short movie usually takes less time than regular movies and is great for learning how to make films.
  • Film Festivals: Events where movies are shown, and short films often get a special spot. Great for getting your movie seen by others.
  • YouTube: A website where you can upload and watch videos, including short films. It’s a good place to share your work with the world.
  • Cinematic Results: When your film looks really good, like the movies you see in a theater.
  • Camera Phones: Your phone’s camera can be used to make movies. Handy and cheap for starters.
  • Screen Credits: The names you see at the start or end of a movie, showing who made it.
  • Music Video: A short video for a song. Making these can be a good practice for filmmaking.
  • Drama: Movies that are serious and emotional. The article suggests trying other styles to stand out.
  • Storyboard: A plan for your film, with drawings of each scene. Helps you organize your ideas.
  • Feature Film: A long movie, like the ones you usually see in theaters. Making short films is a step towards making these bigger projects.

This list breaks down some basic filmmaking terms to help you get some ideas on how to make your own short film. If you’d like additional info, check out these online filmmaking courses.

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ARTICLE BY Jason Brubaker

If you'd like more tactics like the article you just read, make sure to grab a copy of the filmmaker checklist. You'll get 65 useful steps you can employ to produce your next feature film.